How soon after a car accident can you file a claim?

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How long after an accident can you file a claim? The answer depends on your insurer, type of policy and state laws. (Shutterstock)

A car accident is one of the most stressful experiences you can experience. Not only is an accident a heartbreaking event, but injuries and car damage can add to your emotional and financial burden.

If you have car insurance, you can take comfort in knowing that you will be reimbursed for the financial damages. But it’s important to remember that many insurers limit how long you must file a claim after an accident.

Here’s what you need to know about filing a claim after an accident and why your timing is key.

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How soon after an accident can you file a claim?

It’s best to be proactive and file your insurance claim as soon as possible after a car accident. Although many insurers have a time limit for filing a claim, there is no set standard in the industry.

Claims filing times may vary depending on your state, your insurer, and your particular insurance policy. For example, in New York, you must file a claim within 30 days of the accident, unless you have written proof of a justified reason for not meeting the deadline.

Your policy terms may use vague language to file your claim “quickly”. This is because insurance companies have their own timelines to meet when investigating claims. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes for insurers to investigate the responsible party, search for witnesses, and adjudicate your claim.

How to file a complaint

Take the following steps to file an insurance claim after a car accident:

  1. Contact your insurance agent immediately. It’s best to let your agent know about your accident as soon as possible while the details are still fresh in your mind. You can even call your agent from the scene of the accident to let them know what happened and whether your car insurance policy covers you for the specific loss.
  2. Start your claim. Many auto insurance companies now have mobile apps that allow you to file a claim from your phone. You can log into the app from the scene of the accident to start your claim, upload photos of the accident and damage to your vehicle, and even schedule an appraisal. Whether you use an app or not, start your application immediately to avoid any delays in processing and approving your application.
  3. Provide supporting documents. As your insurer investigates your claim, they will likely require additional information, including a proof of claim form, contact details and insurance information for other drivers involved in the accident, and a police report. if applicable.

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What is the difference between car insurance claim deadlines and lawsuit deadlines?

Generally, insurers can impose their own insurance claim deadlines unless they are subject to state claim deadlines. For example, in New York, your insurer is required to acknowledge receipt of your claim within 15 business days.

But if you want to sue, understand that you must follow your state’s statute of limitations — a term for the deadline for filing a lawsuit. You must meet your state’s specific legal time limit for filing a lawsuit after a car accident in order to move forward.

In Florida, for example, the general statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage is four years from the date of the accident, with some exceptions. In wrongful death suits against the at-fault driver, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the person’s death.

If you are considering legal action, always seek professional counsel from a qualified attorney, as the laws change regularly and you will need specific advice regarding your unique case.

Why Filing a Car Insurance Claim Quickly Is Important

Filing a claim quickly after a car accident is essential because the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to get evidence to support your claim. The memory of witnesses fades and evidence disappears or is more difficult to obtain. Also, the sooner you start the claims process, the sooner you can receive compensation for damages.

When you file your claim immediately after your accident, your insurer may be less likely to deny it because they can investigate quickly. Typically, an insurance company has about 30 days to investigate your claim, but the time frame may vary depending on your state.

Although no one likes to think about it, driving can be dangerous. This is why it is important to carry enough car insurance cover. Having at least the minimum types and amounts of coverage can help protect you financially if you are at fault in a car accident.

It is wise to shop around and compare quotes with several car insurers. While it is ideal to obtain the lowest price, it is essential to balance the price with the right coverage to ensure you get the best value.

If you’re ready to buy car insurance, visit Credible for compare auto insurance quotes in minutes.

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